Thursday, 11 August 2011

Looking for Cheder Teachers

Dear All,

New London are looking for Cheder teachers, specifically early years teachers.
If you are interested please do be in touch with Jo Velleman on
If you know someone who might be, please do pass this on.


Rabbi Jeremy



We are re-launching our Cheder under the expert eye of Angela Gluck, one of the country’s leading Jewish educators. This is an exciting opportunity for those who care about the Jewish education of our children. Our intake is from 3 years old up and includes a B’nei Mitzvah programme.


We are seeking Cheder teachers to start on Sunday 18th September 2011. There will be an important whole-team meeting and training session on Sunday 4th September.


Y     Do you enjoy the company of children and young people? Do you want to help them grow Jewishly?

Y     Are you willing to work within a strong Masorti ethos that values the best in both Jewish tradition and modernity—and the interaction between them?

Y     Do you believe that Jewish education is a life-long process and that a bank of positive childhood memories is its firmest foundation?

Y     Are you willing to develop as a Jewish educator, whatever your experience to date?

Y     Do you thrive on challenge? And do you have a sense of fun?


If yes, and you’d like to be involved in our Cheder, do get in touch with us. We’re especially interested to hear from you if you have experience teaching children aged 3 to 5 years. Please feel free to pass this on to others who might wish to develop themselves through developing our cheder.


Please phone the Executive Director, Jo Velleman on 020 7328 1026 between 9.00am and 1.00pm Monday to Friday or email Applications are needed by Friday 19th August. Interviews will be held on the morning of Wednesday 24th August but we are willing to be flexible about this date, if it clashes with pre-existing holiday arrangements. 



New London Synagogue

33 Abbey Road

London NW8 0AT

0207 328 1026

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Two Jews - Fierce Opinions


On the 3rd we will be doing something new. There will be an egalitarian full service in the Synagogue and a non-egalitarian full service in the Kiddush Hall as we celebrate a Bar Mitzvah. It’s something we are doing, as many members will know, as a result of extensive discussions and an EGM. More information is on the website at


I’ve been watching a video report of the mass demonstrations for ‘Tzedek Chavrati’ – social justice, in the streets of Tel Aviv. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis from right across every religious and political spectrum have been protesting against the difficulties they face in owning property or earning anything more than a minimum wage. The piece of the video that really caught my attention came when a group of settlers joined the protest. They were heckled by a presumably anti-settlement protestor. An argument broke out, between Jews, each calling the other, variously, Nazis, Antisemites and Fascists. It gets ugly, but in the next piece of the video another protester explains that while she is opposed to the settlers, she’s happy to see them joining in the protest, so the whole people can come together.


The point is this. Agreement is not a necessary part of being involved in any Jewish society, be it Israel or New London. The necessary part of being involved in Jewish society is knowing that it is more important to stand together than to allow strong held opposing views to weaken the whole. There is a word used in Arabic – umma – to refer to the totality of Muslim people. It shares, of course, an etymological root with the Hebrew term – ‘am – and a grammatical peculiarity shared by English term – people – they are all in the singular. A successful community finds ways to disagree and nonetheless stand together.


Shabbat shalom

Honour of the Community



Next Shabbat will mark the first time we will have held an egalitarian Shabbat morning service in the Synagogue at New London. A parallel non-egalitarian service will be taking place in the Kiddush Hall.


I feel it is important to understand the Halachic underpinnings of the decision to allow men and women, equally, to have aliyot, be it at New London or anywhere else in the traditional Jewish world.


The Talmud teaches, ‘All go up to make up the quorum of seven, even a minor and even a woman. But the Wise said don’t call a woman to read from the Torah because of Cavod Hatzibur – the honour of the congregation.’


The key question about this central text is this. Does the term Cavod Hatzibur  function as a technical absolute, or is it a description of a social reality? In other words, if a particular community would not feel dishonoured, or if in contemporary times no loss of honour would reasonably been seen to result from calling a woman to the Torah, does the statement of The Wise still hold? Those who would wish us only ever to offer aliyot to men would have to argue yes. And the Rabbi Yoel Sirkus is among the great legal commentators. While those who would wish us to offer aliyot to either men or women would find support in other places. Rabeinu Yerucham, for example, explicitly considers that when one cannot call seven men to the Torah, for example when the minyan is fully made up of Cohenim, one should call women. The Reivetz thinks that when there is no competent male reader, and a competent female reader, the female reader should be called instead it being more honourable to call a competent woman than an incompetent man.


Clearly in a community like New London there is no question that having women receive an aliyah represents any affront to our communal honour. Rather the test of honour in our community at this very particular time in our history is the test of respecting the differing desires and passions of our very special community.



A more detailed treatment of this issue is available at

The position of the Synagogue on these issues can be found at


Shabbat shalom


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Destructive Behaviour

We are in the midst of the ‘Three Weeks’ commemorating the destruction of both first and second Temples. All are welcome to the commemoration service and study session on the eve of Monday 8th August.


The Talmud, Yoma 9b, is quite clear as to the cause of the destruction of the First Temple. ‘idolatry, sexual impropriety and bloodshed’  are blamed and indeed such gross disregard of standards of behaviour both inter-personal and theological is appalling. But the same passage goes on to express this element of surprise ‘But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time the Children of Israel occupied themselves with Torah, the observance of Mitzvot and the practice of loving kindness? Why was the Temple destroyed? Because there was groundless hatred. This teaches that groundless hatred is considered equal to ‘idolatry, sexual impropriety and bloodshed.’


The interesting part of the Hebrew phrase for ‘groundless hatred’ – Sinat Hinam – is the second word ‘Hinam’ which suggests a gratuitous response of hate, out of kilter with any provocation. Deserved hatred, as it were, is not beyond the pale. I wonder if a sensitivity to this reading might have been part of Martin Buber’s enormously influential thesis ‘I and Thou.’ There are normal relationships, suggested Buber, relationships that are deserved, reciprocal or transactional. They are the ‘I – it’ relationships that occupy our humdrum mundane activities. And then there are relationships that bubble over the bonds of reciprocity, relationships where we love more than is deserved, where we commit before we measure. Of course Buber was talking about love, rather than hatred, but the point, I think, is the same.


The true power of the relationships we create lies in stepping beyond what is deserved, either, perish the thought, for hatred, or for love. So, a task for these days of mourning and memory – we should stretch our relational muscles to do something beyond what is required, beyond what is deserved so we can prove ourselves to be masters of Hesed Hinam, groundless acts of kindness and build towards a time when destruction is no longer a marker of our faith and community.


Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Jeremy

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